LEGAL INFORMATION AND UPDATE
法律快訊

4th Issue (February 2018)

第期 (2018年2月)

THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE NEW APOLOGY ORDINANCE

                               新《道歉条例》带来的影响

Introduction

On 1 December 2017, the Apology Ordinance (Cap. 631, Laws of Hong Kong) (“Ordinance”) came into effect. The Ordinance changes the legal consequences of any sort of apology (unless otherwise specifically excluded in the Ordinance) made pursuant to a dispute. The driver of this legislation is to assist with dispute resolution and to facilitate settlement between parties. While Hong Kong is the first jurisdiction in Asia to enact an apology legislation, it draws on other common law jurisdictions such as those of the UK, Australia, US and Canada.

 

 

The Ordinance – “apology”, scope, and effect

Apology

One of the key aspects to discuss when looking at the Ordinance is the definition of “apology”. In the Ordinance, “apology” is defined broadly, and includes any part of the expression that is (a) an express/implied admission of the person’s fault or liability in connection with the matter (i.e. full apologies), or (b) a statement of fact in connection with the matter (i.e. partial apologies). Apologies also include apologies that have been made on behalf of a relevant person. The Ordinance will apply to all applicable apologies made on or after the commencement of the Ordinance (i.e. 1 December 2017), regardless of when the matter arose or when the applicable proceedings began.

 

Scope

The Ordinance applies to all civil disputes subject to litigation, arbitration, and other disciplinary and regulatory proceedings. However, it does not apply to any criminal proceedings or proceedings specified in the Schedule to the Ordinance (e.g. proceedings conducted under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance (Cap. 86, Laws of Hong Kong), the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance (Cap. 390, Laws of Hong Kong), and the Coroners Ordinance (Cap. 504, Laws of Hong Kong)). It should also be noted that the Ordinance expressly applies to proceedings involving the government.

 

Effect

If the Ordinance is applicable to the proceedings in question, the apology made for the purpose of the applicable proceedings (a) does not constitute an express or implied admission of the person’s fault/liability in connection with the matter, and (b) must not be taken into account in determining fault or liability or any other issue in connection with the matter to the prejudice of the person. The effect of this is that parties are more likely to settle through negotiations, and mediation may start to play a bigger role in civil disputes, since parties would be less concerned about statements being made admissible against them later, and would thus be more open to negotiation.

 

Effect and interplay with insurance

Prior to the Ordinance, there are circumstances where insurers advise against making any apologies, even if they are made “without prejudice”. This is because insurance policies often include provisions stating that insured entities are not permitted to make any admission of fault. However, with the introduction of the Ordinance, any apology that falls under the applicable proceedings will not render any insurance policy void, and will not affect the insurance cover.

 

 

Effect and interplay with Limitation Ordinance (Cap. 347, Laws of Hong Kong)

 

According to section 23 of the Limitation Ordinance, certain causes of actions (e.g. rights of action relating to land, personal property and debts) are deemed to accrue at the date of acknowledgement of the claim in question. Therefore, limitation periods can be extended if the acknowledgement is made at a later date. The Ordinance expressly states that apologies will not constitute such acknowledgements and therefore will not assist in extending limitation periods in respect of such causes of action.

 

 

 

Our services

With the commencement of the new Ordinance, it is common to have questions regarding this legislation. Our team provides legal advice on issues relating to the making of apologies, and any other matters relating to the new Ordinance. If you come across any issues relating to this legislation, please feel free to approach us for a confidential discussion.

 

IMPORTANT

This publication is for your general reference only, and cannot be relied upon as legal advice in any individual case. We do not accept any responsibility whatsoever in respect of this publication. Please contact our solicitors if any advice is needed. If you wish to unsubscribe, please inform us by email at mail@allawyers.com.hk.

 

 

 

简介

《道歉条例》(香港法例第631章)(下称“条例”或“道歉条例”)于2017年12月1日起正式生效,并改变了因争议而作出的任何形式道歉(除条例另有规定外)的法律后果。此条例旨在协助解决纠纷并促进双方达成和解。香港在借鉴多个其他普通法司法管辖区的道歉法例后,跟随英国、澳大利亚、美国和加拿大等成为亚洲首个制定道歉法例的司法管辖区。

 

条例 – 道歉的涵义、涵盖范围及影响

道歉的涵义

在细阅条例时,其中一个要点为“道歉”的法律含义。“道歉”在条例中具有广泛的定义,包括下述表述及其任何部分:-(1) 以明示或默示的方式,承认某人就某事宜犯有过失或法律责任(即“全面道歉”);或 (2) 就某事宜相关的事实陈述(即“有限度道歉” )。“道歉”定义亦包括由他人代表相关人士作出的道歉。本条例均适用于任何在条例生效日期当日(即2017年12月1日)或之后所作出的适用道歉,不论相关事宜何时衍生或关于该事宜的相关法律程序何时展开。

 

涵盖范围

条例适用于所有民事纠纷的诉讼、仲裁、纪律处分及规管性程序。然而,条例并不适用于刑事程序或条例附表所载的程序(例如根据《调查委员会条例》(香港法例第86章)、《淫亵及不雅物品管制条例》(香港法例第390章)及《死因裁判官条例》(香港法例第504章)进行的程序) 。请留意,条例亦有明确指出本条例适用于涉及政府之程序。

 

影响

在条例适用的情况下,某人就某事宜作出的道歉(1)并不构成以明示或默示的方式,承认该人在该事宜的过失或法律责任的表述;及(2)在就该事宜裁断过失、法律责任或任何其他争议事项时,不得列为不利于该人的考虑因素。由于作出道歉后不必担心其声明在未来会被对方在法庭上提出,作为对自身不利的指控,相信未来会有更多人愿意接纳并采用另类排解程序,通过谈判解决纷争,并促使调解在民事纠纷中发挥更关键的作用。

 

 

对保险合约的影响

一直以来,香港的保险界倾向只在极少数的情况下才会同意当事人作出道歉,即使是在“无损权益”的通讯或调解中所作的亦如是。其中一个原因是由于不少保单的常见条款均禁止受保人承认过失。自条例生效起,任何由受保人向他人所作适用于条例的道歉不会使保单变得无效或影响保单下的保障。

 

对《时效条例》(香港法例第347章)的影响

 

根据《时效条例》第23条,某些诉讼权(例如关于土地、私人财产及债项之诉讼权)被视为于作出确认申索那一天产生。因此,时效期在某些情况下可依确认申索的日期得以延长。道歉条例中有明文规定就《时效条例》第23 条而言,某人就某事宜作出的道歉并不构成该条例所指的确认,而相关时效期亦不会因此延长。

 

我们的服务

随着新道歉条例的实施,可预见引起不少相关疑问。本所团队可就根据该条例作出道歉和该条例的应用等事宜提供法律意见。如阁下就条例有任何疑问,欢迎随时联系我们进行保密咨询。

 

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